Originally written on Eagles Eye  |  Last updated 11/16/14
Maybe it's the fluttering downfield passes which should have been intercepted... maybe it's the zoned-out expression on his face...maybe it's the inevitable historic references to Mike Boryla and Bobby Hoying, Eagles rookie QB's of the past who had brief encounters with initial success, then flamed out... I don't know. Maybe Nick "Shaggy" Foles is special. Like Joe Flacco "special"... Maybe he is capable of picking up the nuances of the game more and more in the final 3 games of 2012 and take his place in 2013 history. But I still have my doubts. At least I know Foles does have a "quarterback gene" in his DNA. He showed that gene with his calm command of the final seconds drive to beat Tampa Bay last Sunday. That's a big deal right there. He didn't panic. He didn't mess up the clock. He called the winning play and went with it... I'll reserve further judgement until Thursday night's encounter with the Cincinnati Bengals. Foles, 23, was making just his fourth start in Tampa, surrounded by an injury-depleted offense that began the day without its three best offensive linemen, top wide receiver and top running back--- and ended it without its top tight end. He took six sacks and had no run support. He won anyway, over a desperate opponent, making a lot of it up as he went, which is a big part of becoming a good QB in the NFL. "Really, it's not much different from basketball," said Allentown Morning Call's Nick Fierro, "in which called plays often break down, leaving success totally in the hands of the players and the way they play off each other and sense when to do the right things." "Such was the case when Foles scrambled 10 yards for the Eagles' first touchdown." Since Nick Fierro actually played football at the collegiate level, I have to take that tribute to Nick Foles seriously. "It was just one of those plays where it turns into backyard football," Foles said. "I felt a little pressure, stepped up and got out of the pocket. Sometimes you've got to move around and make a play." Foles seems equipped for that, despite his limited straight-ahead speed, which is always nice to have but not an absolute requirement. Just ask Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Foles is plenty fast where it counts for his position: between the ears. He is processing information at a mind-boggling rate, evolving faster than anyone could have reasonably projected. Perhaps this is out of necessity. After all, most people don't know what they're fully capable of until being faced with crisis. This season certainly qualifies. Sunday, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg raved about how Foles dealt with the latest crisis, in which the entire game basically was placed on his shoulders. "We did come into this game thinking we'd be able to run the ball better than we did," Mornhinweg said. "However, there came a time when we lost [tight end] Brent [Celek, to a concussion] early in the ballgame. We lost [fullback] Stanley [Havili] for a period of time. "And it was just very simple: We'll open it up and most of it is going to be on Nick." A game plan that broke down early, leaky protection and a shortage of receivers and tight ends weren't enough to keep Foles from keeping his team in it. And then breaking through with his first career win. "Nick, throughout the game, in several cases, if he wants a play, he's got it," Mornhinweg said. "So he's very good that way. He just has done an outstanding job with his audibles and, hey, if he wants a play, he takes ownership of it." Foles adjusted to his latest crisis. He aimed at Maclin (nine catches, 104 yards) and Avant (seven catches, 133 yards) more. He trusted lone backup tight end Clay Harbor, who cooperated by catching all six passes thrown his way. Foles even scrambled three times for 27 yards. Only 13 of the Eagles' 73 plays from scrimmage were called runs. Foles handled that imbalance with great poise. He completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards. You throw the ball 51 times, you almost always lose. You throw for 381 yards, you almost always lose. Foles did not lose. Instead, as Mornhinweg said, he "took ownership." Every week, he moves one step closer to being the man to build around for next season...or so it may seem. "He has the potential to be a special quarterback in this league," Maclin said, "and he's definitely growing up right before our eyes." But of course you know me--- the original "Doubting Thomas"... What happens when opposing teams start to really focus on taking Nick Foles out of the equation? "It's not easy to keep your poise when you're getting hit all day as a rookie, but he did," said Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who had two sacks. "He could have gotten nervous during that last drive, but he didn't. All the credit goes to him." Foles also demonstrated a willingness to succeed by any means necessary. Besides throwing for 381 yards and two touchdowns against the Bucs, he scored his first career touchdown on a 10-yard run. "He's not going to win a whole lot of races," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "But he knows how to make big plays." He saved his biggest for the fourth quarter, when he led a pair of scoring drives that enabled the Eagles to erase a 21-10 deficit. The Eagles cut the Bucs' lead to 21-16 on Foles' 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Clay Harbor with 4 minutes, 4 seconds left in regulation. They got the ball back with 2:44 remaining and were 64 yards away from ending an eight-game losing streak. In the huddle, all eyes were on Foles. "It was fun out there," said Eagles guard Jake Scott, who experienced a few game-winning drives with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. "To have a chance to win the game in the last second, that's why we play this game. That's the rush we play for. We were expecting Nick to lead us and he did. He was composed through all of it, and that's what you need, a quarterback who can make decisions under pressure." During the final drive, Foles completed just two of his first five passes and suffered a sack, but he kept throwing and scrambling. A 9-yard pass to Maclin left the Eagles 1 yard short of a first down. Foles picked it up with a 3-yard run on fourth down. Still, a victory seemed unlikely. The Eagles were at the Bucs' 28-yard line with 35 second left and no timeouts. "You just keep playing," Foles said. "You just keep playing for each other." After three more incompletions, he hit wide receiver Jason Avant for 22 yards on fourth down to put the ball at the 1-yard line. With only 10 seconds left, however, Foles had to get the rest of the offense downfield and in position to spike the ball in order to take one last shot at a win. He spiked it with 2 seconds remaining. After a Bucs timeout, Foles trotted over to the sideline and suggested a play to Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Then came the game-winning toss to Maclin, who made a sliding grab in the corner of the end zone. "I just like movement plays," Foles said. "It felt good. It was the first play that came to my head." After celebrating with his teammates on the field and in the visitors' locker room, Foles emerged still wearing his full uniform save for the baseball cap he tugged on over his shaggy blonde hair. After he was done, the 23-year-old pulled on a T-shirt and jeans for the flight back to Philadelphia. His fashion sense drew comparisons to former Eagles quarterback Koy Detmer, who would buy his entire road wardrobe for the season with a 10-minute visit to Target. But no one cares if he dresses like a winner as long as he plays like one. "Nick has a great upside," Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "To see a rookie come in and play the way he's been playing, it's pretty special." I'll keep an open mind. But the image of Bobby Hoying in late 1997 still haunts me. He looked like a star on the rise. Then came the "Big Reveal"... and nothing went right until McNabb emerged as the real deal. This is a quarterback-driven league. There's no way around it anymore. Can Nick "Shaggy" Foles really drive this thing? I suppose we as fans have no option now but to sit back and observe.  
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